The best translation should be "they are French women", in particular because the English make no difference between men and women through pronoun "they".
"they are French" means "ils sont français" or "elles sont françaises".
I would like to know how one knows when to use the "Ce sont des Françaises" I've been asked to translate here, instead of using "Elles sont françaises". The whole "ils sont/elles sont" versus "ce sont" thing is quite confusing for me at this time...
In French, "c'est" (sing.) and "ce sont" (plural) are used every time pronoun it, she, he or they is subject of verb "être" and followed by a nominal group, ie: modifier (1) + noun (+ adjective)
o it is + noun => c'est + modifier + noun (+ adjective)
o she is + noun => c'est + modifier + noun (+ adjective)
o he is + noun => c'est c'est + modifier + noun (+ adjective)
o they are + noun => ce sont + modifier + noun (+ adjective)
(1)NOTE: French nouns are always used with "modifiers": articles, definite or indefinite (le/la/les, un/une/des) or possessive adjectives (mon/ma/mes, etc) or demonstrative adjectives (ce/cette/ces) or numeral (deux, trois...).
(2)NOTE: the above rule has no exception with indefinite article un/une/des, but a few exceptions with other modifiers:
- he is THE chief = IL est LE chef (single statute) + c'est LE chef
- she is HIS second wife = ELLE est SA seconde épouse (single statute) + c'est SA seconde épouse
they are French = ils sont français or elles sont françaises (adjectives)
they are French men = ce sont des Français (noun)
they are French women = ce sont des Françaises (noun)
OMG it all came together for me in your conclusion, Sitesurf! This is a major turning point in my understanding of French usage of modifiers! THANK YOU.
That's a good point - one suggested "correct" answer is "These are some French men." But that could not actually be the case as it is "françaisES".
I translated is as 'They are French' as the French sentence could have referred to, say, French girls, French apples? Or am I being silly?
they are French = ils sont français OR elles sont françaises (nationality as an adjective)
they are Frenchwomen = ce sont des Françaises (women / nationality as a noun)
they are French ones = ce sont des Françaises (things or animals / nationality as a noun) - I'm pretty sure you would only say "they are French" in this case, but the back translation would be wrong (ils/elles sont français/es - adjective).
With these/those you don't get the point that they are women (or other feminine subject)
True but then you do not typically point that out in English. "they are french" is normal English sentence, regardless the gender. Sometimes you may want to highlight the fact that you are talking about women and use some word (like 'women') in the sentence. But many times you do not have to as it is not needed or the audience already knows the objects are females. You would never use masculine form though in French, cause it would be simply silly even if the audience already knows you are referring to a group of females. I think "They are French" should be acceptable.
ce sont des Français [-ɛ]= they are Frenchmen
ce sont des Françaises [-ɛz]= they are Frenchwomen
The plural of adjective "ce" is "ces". (this/that and these/those)
But here, "ce" is a pronoun (= this thing), used mainly with verb être: c'est / ce sont; and it remains invariable.
That's pretty insidious! Before I called "les anglaises" English women and was rejected and this time I left the "women" out and I am also rejected!!!!